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    Review: Death at a Funeral, a Comedy Reborn

    Death at a Funeral, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, Peter Dinklage, Tracy Morgan Phil Bray/Columbia TriStar

    Review in a Hurry: Remaking a little-seen British farce sounds like a dead-end endeavor—but somehow, it works. In fact, this American version recalls the English knickers-baring Benny Hill more than its stiff-upper-lipped cousin.

    The Bigger Picture: Of all the movies of 2007, Death at a Funeral wasn't exactly screaming to be remade. (What three-year-old movie is, really?) Apparently the flick called out to Chris Rock, who helped get this effort on the big screen. Well, kudos to him —and, believe it or not, the king of the caustic, director Neil LaBute—for making it work.

    It's no comedy masterpiece, but this story of a funeral where everything goes wrong has a brash, outlandish tone grounded by an outstanding cast. Zoe Saldana, Tracy Morgan, Martin Lawrence, Danny Glover, Loretta Devine and a slew of other pros keep things hopping while Chris Rock, as Aaron, the oldest son of the deceased, tries to keep everything under control.

    Cousin Elaine (Saldana) accidentally drugs her boyfriend (James Marsden, hilarious). Cranky Uncle Russell (Glover) tortures Norman (Morgan) at every turn—loudly. But none of the craziness compares to the fact that Aaron's papa was carrying on with a little person named Frank (Peter Dinklage, repeating his role from the Brit version). Frank threatens to reveal the secret to the whole group, and while Papa is on his way to heaven, all hell breaks loose.

    LaBute steers the action into a nice, easy rhythm, with enough breaks in the chaos to give the audience a breather, and Dean Craig's revision of his original script is intelligent and even thoughtful—despite the constant F-bombs. Combining familial sentiment with toilet language (and, regrettably, a touch of toilet humor) is a tall order, but for the most part, this team succeeds.

    The 2010 Funeral is no improvement on the original—they're two totally different products. While the original was a gently silly British gentleman, this version is the rude, loud American with a big heart.

    The 180—a Second Opinion: Serviceably entertaining, sweet at times, a great chance to see good actors play in the sandbox with each other—but Funeral sinks just a little too low in gross humor and broad characterizations to be truly memorable.

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